Pakistan needs more men like Mirza Ali

Published: June 6, 2013

“I want to let Pakistan know that if I can empower my sister to summit the highest peak of the world, they should also let their women pursue any goal they want to.” PHOTO: APP/FILE

In 1856 when Mount Everest was definitively identified as the world’s highest mountain what began was a series of early Everest expeditions, mostly led by the British, which, in 1933, included efforts to deploy the British Union Flag on top of the mountain by flying a formation of aircraft over the peak (an expedition funding by a British millionaires, Lady Houston)

Since 1921 Everest has had over 4,500 climber visitors from over eighty nations.

And while the first female ascent of the mountain was in 1975 by Japanese mountain-climber, Junko Tabei and the first Pakistani to scale the Everest was a man by the name of Nazir Sabir, on May 19, 2013 twenty two-year old Samina Baig set a new record for the country as she ascended to 8,848  meters and became the first Pakistani woman to reach the roof of the world.

Much is remarkable about Samina Baig’s story.

She is only twenty-two. She was the first person to climb Chaskin Sar (a peak above 6,000 meters which is now named after her). She managed to secure Rs10 million from funders in New Zealand for this climb (after being turned down by the Pakistani government). Upon reaching the top, she chose to deploy the Pakistan flag alongside the Indian flag (deployed by twin sisters and fellow climbers from India) in a symbolic gesture that puts all our politicians and leaders to shame.

But most impressively, Samina chose to dedicate her expedition to a higher cause – for the confidence and empowerment of Pakistani women, in particular those who come from the most remote regions of the country, like Samina herself.

However, it would not be a stretch to say that Samina was not the only one to create history at 7:40am on May 19.

Her brother Mirza Ali, who beamed with pride next to his sister while she gave press interviews, is an equally remarkable component of this tale.

When I first heard of Mirza Ali’s enthusiasm and staunch support for his sister’s mission I was reminded of Aung San Suu Kyi who once said,

“In societies where men are truly confident of their worth, women are not merely tolerated but also valued.”

Generally speaking, I have long regarded this quote as not applicable to the majority of Pakistan or its men. Too often we Pakistani women have to justify our goals and plans to the men in our life – as if seeking their permission is a religious or cultural requirement and a necessary means of validating our dreams and ambitions.

But men, like Mirza Ali, who are able to sit down, kick back and relax while the women in their life run (and sometimes even steal) the show, are what Pakistan needs more of.

It is the stories of men like Mirza Ali, a brother who turned back at 8,600 metres, just 248 metres shy of conquering the summit, to let his sister take the lead and declare to the world that women are just as capable as men- that need to be told. Stories of men like those who gun down young girls because they are frightened and threatened by her relentless pursuit of education or those who wield their dominance over women through violence and sexual assault, should be shunned and condemned so as to serve as a lesson to those men who choose to be inspired by them.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, at the inception of Pakistan, said

“No nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men”.

Yet a recent United Nations study shows that Pakistan (compared to the rest of South Asian continues to have the least amount of women, a meagre 22%, participating in its labour force. Surely we don’t need reminding that there is prosperity for a nation through empowerment of its people – a term inclusive of the female gender.

Although too many of our women continue to be subjugated to economic hardship and social exclusion, Samina Baig and Mirza Ali have come to the scene to set a new precedent – one we should not just admire from afar but seek to adopt and emulate within our own relationships and family dynamics.

The sibling-duo hail from Shimshal Village in the Hunza Valley, one of the most remote regions in Pakistan and yet the siblings maintain that their village has a one hundred percent literacy rate for females. Hearing Samina speak in her soft yet confident manner, in articulate Urdu and English, under the proud gaze of her older brother, I believe that.

And so when Mirza Ali sends a message to his country-men “to encourage your sisters and give them confidence to scale the peak” what he himself embodies is the very spirit that Pakistan’s founding father embodied.

Read more by Maria here or follow her on Twitter @mariakari1414

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

A freelance writer and journalist currently based in Vancouver, BC. She writes on South Asian and Middle Eastern politics, portrayals of Islam in the West and the occasional preoccupation with pop culture faddism and tweets at @mariakari1414.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mkz

    Does anyone else find it weird that the brother is taking all the credit for Samina Baig’s?Recommend

  • Mkz

    Pakistan needs more WOMEN like Samina Baig more than it needs more men like Mirza AliRecommend

  • Saad

    Well said. We need more men like Mirza Ali in Pakistan if we want our society to change.Recommend

  • Lala Gee

    “Yet a recent United Nations study shows that Pakistan (compared to the rest of South Asian continues to have the least amount of women, a meagre 22%, participating in its labour force.”

    Women are the worst enemies of themselves. How could you not consider managing the house; preparing food, and imparting good education to children – the most important role in building a nation’s future – as tangible or respectable work. Why women are so inclined towards what they are not good at, and look down upon what they are naturally good at. How many women in the west, who are as independent socially as men, are as successful as men in the fields of technology, innovation, and scientific research and discoveries. Why don’t we see many women prominent in various scientific fields involving mathematics, as it requires highly developed faculties of logic and reasoning. We also don’t see many women at the top in the fields of art either.Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    The brother and sister duo are the real heroes of Pakistan. The represent the common man who can rise to the highest challenges given equal opportunity. QuaedeAam would be proud.Recommend

  • Z

    @Mkz: Did you even read the article?Recommend

  • Khan

    MKZ, get a life buddy..

    I think he should be given all the credit and more because hes the reason his sister climbed up the highest mountain.. and then the culture we belong to, taking your sister with you anywhere is a big deal let alone Fuc** Everest.. Recommend

  • Blue Jays

    “It is the stories of men like Mirza Ali, a brother who turned back at 8,600 metres, just 248 metres shy of conquering the summit, to let his sister take the lead and declare to the world that women are just as capable as men”

    The brother’s equally heroic as the sister.

    Top article. Always great to read positive stories coming out of Pakistan.Recommend

  • dna

    @Mkz evwhr in news u see stamina baig… people almost forgot that Mirza also conquered Mt Everest .. hw can u even make such a lame conclusion?Recommend

  • Parvez

    This blog is also in the Opinion section and my comment there is : brother or no brother the brave adventurous Samina Baig would have reached the top anyway.
    The focus should be on this brave girl and not her brother.
    Recommend

  • Maryam

    Haha, you know Patriarchy is not going anywhere when they guy says
    ” I want to let Pakistan know that if I can empower my sister to summit the highest peak of the world, they should also let their women pursue any goal they want to.” LET?
    Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but as long as we need men to “let” us accomplish what we want, we are not empowered.
    But true that on a more personal level for her, it is indeed a great achievment.Recommend

  • Nayyar

    The Bolg demonstrates the outstanding achievement of Samina Baig, one young daughter of our land, in a fierce male dominated field. She deserves all credit and recognition. Such heroic stories illustrate the fortitude and resilience of our women folk, whether residing in metropolitan cities having access to all amenities and opportunities or in the remote corners of Pakistan surviving on the barest essential. The article also underlines the outstanding achievements of Agha Khan and the Ismaili community in furthering women’s education and women empowerment in the remote regions of Hunza Valley.

    It opens the discourse to the patriarchal society in which most women in Pakistan and Kashmir exist, on in which they are restricted/prohibited from actively perusing their dreams and goals. While examples of such women and their heroic accomplishments are encouraging to read, unfortunately such examples are rare to come by. A large segment of our male counterparts continue to enforce restrictions upon their wives, daughters and sisters on education and employment. Moreover, empowerment is correlated with economic prosperity. The rural women conduct a large portion of the daily chores in fields and homes, but their labour is not given any tangible recognition. These women are totally dependent and suppressed by the male figure head of the household, due to lack of education and financial security. Their dreams and hopes to excel their own and family wellbeing is subdued in the likes and dislikes of their male counterparts and the overall male dominated societal pressure.

    There is need to education such men on greater tolerance, respect and equality of their women folk as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and is being practices in all civilized and developed nations of the world. Equally women need to be made aware of their legal rights as a free citizen of this country as well as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.Recommend

  • Nayyar

    The bolg demonstrates the outstanding achievement Samina Baig, one young daughter of our land, in a fierce male dominated arena. She deserves all credit and recognition. Such heroic stories illustrate the fortitude and resilience of our women folk, whether residing in metropolitan cities having access to all amenities and opportunities or in the remote corners of Pakistan surviving on the barest essential. It further underscores the outstanding achievements of Agha Khan Foundation and the Ismaili community in furthering women’s education and women empowerment in the remote regions of Hunza Valley.

    It further opens the discourse on the patriarchal society in which women in Pakistan and Kashmir exist and how they are restricted/prohibited from actively perusing their dreams and goals. While such examples of women’s accomplishments are encouraging, unfortunately such examples are rare to come by. Whereas the male chauvinistic society continues to enforce restrictions on wives, daughters and sisters on education and employment. Moreover, empowerment is correlated with economic prosperity. Women particularly in rural areas conduct a large portion of the daily chores in fields and homes, but their labour is not given any tangible recognition. Most of these women are totally dependent and suppressed by the male figure head of the household due to lack of education and financial security. Their dreams and hopes to excel their own and family wellbeing are subdued in the likes and dislikes of their male counterparts and the overall male dominated societal pressure.

    There is need to education such men on greater tolerance, respect and equality of their women folk as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and is being practices in all civilized and developed nations of the world. Equally women need to be made aware of their legal rights as a free citizen of this country as well as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.Recommend

  • Darjat

    Indeed a great achievement. Samina Baig has become source of inspiration for many people but specifically for girls. I wonder if she takes quick action to organize mountaineering courses for girls is in Pakistan which is most needed and is desirable. Recommend

  • Rizwan

    I don’t understand. Him making the summit would not have taken away anything from his sister’s achievement. To go all the way to 8600m and not make the summit would have me regretting it for the rest of my life, unless I intended to make another attempt.Recommend

  • Tammy

    Other news stories said he had to turn back due to being sick. Wonder which is true? Why would you get that close & turn back unless you were sick? Why not just summit later than her? Recommend